Today (Tues 16 Dec 2014), following our visit to Shanghai and Lianyungang, is the day we embark on our first journey on China’s Bullet Train on the high speed network introduced in 2007. We were not to be disappointed. It is amazing!
We had no idea what to expect. Was Chinese Rail ultra modern or still decades behind? We soon found out! We had decided to buy the most expensive tickets on each rail leg of our journey and no regrets about that! We could have taken any seats, even the lowest cost, and we would have been happy enough. But what a pleasure it turned out to be!
The location of Shanghai Hongqiao Train Station is in the same complex as the airport and our overnight (Air China) hotel. Very convenient! Its quite a long walk from the hotel to the station but all under cover, protected from the environment.
The station itself is huge and very modern. We quickly and easily passed through security and a short queue at the ticket counter held us up for only 15 minutes. This will take longer later in the day probably when more travelers are about – we were there shortly after the station opened at 6 a.m.
Our reservation agent, China Highlights, gave us lots of information about what to expect and how to do everything. We booked early, long before China Rail was ready to accept our reservations. China Highlights handled that and let us know when the reservations had been accepted – all electronically in English.
Our reservation printouts and passports gained us our paper tickets within seconds, as promised by China Highlights. The ticket lady spoke not a word to us – just a small smile as she handed over our tickets. It was so easy.
We had allowed plenty of time as this was our first experience of rail travel in China. This allowed us time to find breakfast. Only Chinese food (and Starbucks) available but with plenty of restaurants and fast food places, there is a huge choice. All signs are in Chinese and English so it was easy to find our way around.
The Shanghai – Beijing train itself is excellent, clean and crisp. Our over-the-top precaution of booking the highest cost tickets saw us in what is called business class. This is actually better than first class with oceans of room and comfortable lie-flat seat/beds; the best I have ever experienced. I would do exactly the same again, regardless of the higher (but not extortionate) cost, simply for the pleasure it gave.
The journey to Jinan West train station from Shanghai is 5 hours at speeds of up to 304km. All stations along the route are modern and well signposted in Chinese and English. The announcements are also all in Chinese and English too. No swaying, no bumping over rail joints! Sheer speed! What a pleasant journey!
Our business partners from Zhangqiu met us at the station and transferred us to their factory, an hour’s drive from the station. We stopped for lunch at a rustic country restaurant. Excellent food of course, and enough to feed an army.
We transferred to our hotel late afternoon and declined more food, preferring after a long day to to enjoy a quiet even meal a our hotel.
The hotel was crap! More on this to follow…